The 10 Best B2B Instagram Profiles

Last week was a big week for Instagram as they announced that they have 300 million monthly active users. This makes the visual platform owned by Facebook, larger than Twitter. It is also growing at a faster rate than Twitter.

B2B companies need to learn how to tell their stories in a visual manner. There are many blog posts that merely list the largest B2B companies on Instagram, or a seemingly random selection of B2B companies on Instagram. But this post is different. These are the ten B2B companies with the highest engagement rate on Instagram. This means their followers (who could be a combination of customers, prospects, employees and partners) have liked and commented on their photos and videos.

Methodology: A B2B company needed at least 1000 followers to be considered for the list. I examined the last ten Instagram posts for likes and comments. The average number of the sum of likes and comments was divided by the number of followers to determine the engagement rate (expressed as a percentage). If you want to put these numbers in perspective, according to SimplyMeasured, the top retail brands have an average engagement rate of 4%. The top B2B companies below have a similar engagement rate.

Note that General Electric, the biggest B2B company on Instagram with 183,000 followers did not make the list because their engagement rate is only 0.78%. Companies need to not just focus on growing their follower counts, but they also need to make sure their content is resonating with their audience.

1. IBM

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Posts: 196
Followers: 9265
Engagement Rate: 4.04%

2. Mailchimp

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Posts: 242
Followers: 9560
Engagement Rate: 3.98%

3. Infusionsoft

b2b-instagram-infusionsoft
Posts: 576
Followers: 1499
Engagement Rate: 3.88%

4. Fedex

b2b-instagram-fedex
Posts: 125
Followers: 11053
Engagement Rate: 3.49%

5. CBRE

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Posts: 490
Followers: 3290
Engagement Rate: 3.36%

6. Maersk

b2b-instagram-maersk
Posts: 314
Followers: 29406
Engagement Rate: 2.78%

7. Oracle

b2b-instagram-oracle
Posts: 190
Followers: 5424
Engagement Rate: 2.77%

8. Intel

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Posts: 496
Followers: 29874
Engagement Rate: 2.76%

9. Zendesk

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Posts: 388
Followers: 1231
Engagement Rate: 2.69%

10. Hootsuite

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Posts: 476
Followers: 6696
Engagement Rate: 2.65%

10 Keys for Starting a B2B LinkedIn Group to Generate Leads

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoMy friend Tom Skotidas and I recently talked about the keys to starting a LinkedIn Group as a means to generate leads for B2B companies. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. This is part of an ongoing series of conversations about the intersection of sales and marketing, well as social selling.

1. Start with your Product or Service in Mind

The first thing you need to do is create a group that is connected to your product or service. This may be related to the product category or your specific industry, but general enough that the right people will find the group relevant and interesting. Choose a group name that reflects the topic and will be meaningful to your prospects.

2. Determine the Most Likely Buyer

Since we are looking at this group through the lens of lead generation, make sure you take into account your most likely buyers. The group should be targeted to them. As you are planning the group make sure to develop a targeted persona so you know who should be in the group.

3. Never Mention the Product

Even though you have the product in mind, the point of the group is not to sell the product. Market trends and solutions related to the product and services are what is important to the group.

4. Create a Closed Group

You can create a closed group or an open group on LinkedIn. Start out with a closed group as you are building it up. This way only people you invite can join the group. As it grows and develops some traction, you may want to make it an open group to take advantage of search and sharing benefits of things posted in the group. While an open group is visible to all, you can still moderate members and comments.

5. Manage it like a Community

The LinkedIn group you build is a community and it needs community management. That means you, or someone on your team, must be a manager of the group. This person must have the personality to interact with group members on a regular basis, reach out to them publicly or privately to ask questions or elicit comments, and generally keep the conversation interesting and flowing. A number of different people can serve in this role.

6. Build it like a 3-Layer Cake

Start the first layer by getting your staff to join the group so it has a bit of a head start. The second layer includes your closest business partners and some existing customers. Let them know the purpose of the group and that their interaction is encouraged. Once the group has that lived in feeling, invite some targeted prospects to join the group. This is the top of the cake. They are the ones to focus on, and it helps that they are joining an active, growing group.

7. Know What Content to Share

The purpose of this group is to provide value to the community, and especially the prospects, so they begin to build a relationship with you. You can do that through content. You can use third-party content related to the theme of the group or even conversation starters, which are just what they sound like. Comments and questions that get people talking.

8. Engage the Group

The community managers need to continuous engage the group members to keep the conversation going. That may include messaging someone with a specific and relevant post and asking them to provide their thoughts in the group.

9. Practice Both Inbound and Outbound Lead Generation

You can use this group to manage both inbound and outbound leads. Sharing content in the group that provides links back to your blog, website and landing pages encourages clicks and shares to drive more people to those pages. As you build relationships with your targeted prospects in the group, you can coordinate with the sales team to reach out to them. And this is no longer a cold call.

10. Remember Marketing Led, Sales Fed

Finally, keep in mind that social selling initiatives like this are run by the marketing team, but ultimately they support sales. You are generating leads for sales.

Are there other best practices you have developed in using LinkedIn groups to generate leads?

B2B Companies Use Twitter for Customer Support No Matter Their Size

b2b-dell-social-mediaThe days when B2B companies picking up the phone or answering emails was good enough are long over. Now, customers take to Twitter even before they call you. They’re tweeting about how terrible your hold music is even as they’re waiting, ripping apart the scripts your agents use even as they’re working on solving their problem and publicly pushing you to deliver a quick fix for a bug they spotted minutes ago. And things are only going to get worse if your B2B company isn’t on Twitter.

When you’re small, having a single touchpoint is definitely enough, but it’s inefficient as you grow your business. Your support queries mix with your branding efforts and often enough, your customers are going to misinterpret your premeditated marketing messages as callous indifference to their problems. So, when you expand into multiple products and reach global markets, you need an entirely different strategy to deal with customers on Twitter (just like you might have an overall strategy for customer support as your company expands).

B2B Startups Need One Twitter Touchpoint To Rule Them All

If you’ve just started out and your business has just a few thousand customers, no matter how spread out they are across the world, a single Twitter account would serve both the purposes of communicating with your customers and marketing your brand.

For example, Freshdesk, a leading customer support solution, was down recently because of a denial of service attack. The company immediately got on to Twitter to appease customers complaining about the down time, because that’s where their users went to first. Freshdesk used Twitter as an announcement channel before they could get a blog post ready with more details and told their customers that they were working to fix things.

Twitter provides companies the opportunity to engage with customers and answer questions coming in from different locations. B2B companies striving to provide exceptional customer service have no excuse to be absent from Twitter in 2014.

When you’re small, it doesn’t make sense to have a dedicated support agent looking at your lonely notifications feed on Twitter. You’re probably going to get only a couple of customer questions spread throughout the day. Setting up Twitter to send you email alerts when something comes up on Twitter will do. You’ll know that there’s something bubbling up out there while you’re working on building a great product.

The staff at Buffer also make it a point to wow their customers when they least expect it. They consistently engage with almost every tweet they receive, and keep users informed every minute when there’s trouble. They use Twitter as a medium to deliver exceptional service as the whole world watches, and earn fans along the way for their transparency.

Dedicated Support on Twitter Is the Best Bet for Big B2B Companies

If you’re growing like crazy (by the millions every month), and if your customer base is primarily young and tech-savvy – quick to get on to Twitter even before looking up your phone number or support email address – you probably need a dedicated support presence on Twitter to deal with the sheer volume of queries you may be getting.

Twitter works well in helping distribute critical information to some of your most vocal customers.

Spread Out Support Presence Across Regions and Products for Global B2Bs

For a company like Dell that has millions of customers all over the world, a distributed support strategy works pretty well. From executives to dedicated teams, it’s not uncommon to see Dell’s distributed Twitter accounts responding almost instantaneously to consumers who are seeking information about their devices and tweeting about their PC problems. Dell scores in this regard by decentralizing their social media channels, and having a considerable number of their employees respond to customers region-wise.

Customers also end up having a positive customer service experience instead of a nightmarish one waiting on hold endlessly trying to get their problems resolved.

How have you scaled your Twitter customer support presence as your B2B company has grown?

Photo credit: Flickr

5 Ways to Use Your LinkedIn Profile to Attract Inbound B2B Leads

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoMy friend Tom Skotidas and I are at it again and this time we talked about how anyone, but especially B2B sales pros, can use their LinkedIn profile to attract inbound leads. Tom calls this inbound social selling. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. We have been talking about the intersection of sales and content marketing for B2B companies. A lot of people call this social selling, but there is more to it than just that.

1. Re-Think the Purpose of Your Profile

Rather than just create a profile that shows your job history and qualifications, create a profile that shows how you can solve your target audience’s problems and serve their needs. Think of your profile as a piece content that reflects your company’s capabilities, rather than your resume.

2. Use the Right Keywords

Throughout your LinkedIn profile you should use keywords that are related to your products and services. Not just any keywords, but ones that your prospects commonly use. One way to determine those keywords is by using Google’s Keyword Ad Planner Tool. It is designed to help determine keywords for Google ads, so you need an AdWords account (connected to a regular Google account), but you don’t need to place any ads to use the tool.

3. View Your LinkedIn Profile as a Web Page to be Indexed

As you are re-thinking about your LinkedIn profile and using the appropriate keywords, remember that this is a web page that is indexed by Google and other search engines. LinkedIn is a high-ranking domain and can show up as a top result in searches for your keywords.

4. Don’t Forget About LinkedIn Search

Active LinkedIn users use the search functions within LinkedIn to find what they are looking for, beyond people’s names and companies.

5. Optimize These 9 Fields in Your LinkedIn Profile

Once you have your keywords to attract your prospects, what do you do with them? There are several fields in your LinkedIn profile that Tom identified as the most relevant.

  • Headline: The default is your current job at your current company. This is the most important thing to change to appeal to prospects.
  • Contact Information: This should include the best ways to contact you, plus a website or landing page that includes information to your target prospects
  • Summary: This is where you can really speak to the prospect about how you and your company can solve their business problems, using a good selection of keywords.
  • Experience: What you do in your job is another opportunity to tell the story of your success helping customers solve problems.
  • Marketing Assets: Work with your marketing team to get Powerpoints and PDFs to add to your LinkedIn profile and use your keywords in the title of the pieces.
  • Skills & Endorsements: Have others endorse you for skills that are most relevant to your target prospects. You have the ability to edit your list of skils.
  • Publications: Relevant blog posts, ebooks or articles quoting you can be listed here. If you don’t have any, this is a good time see if you can collaborate with someone to create some things to list.
  • Recommendations: Ask your customers for recommendations. They will use the terms that others in your industry use, and they will also validate your position as someone who is helpful.
  • Groups Joined: The Groups you join show on your profile, so make sure you join relevant Groups with names that look and sound good.

What have you done on your LinkedIn profile to attract B2B prospects?

Do B2B Companies Really Need to Be on Facebook?

b2b-facebookMany B2B companies start their social media efforts by gravitating to the large, common platforms and setting up profiles. Step 1: Twitter. Step 2: Facebook. Step 3: LinkedIn. And once these boxes are checked, they struggle to find the right content to post to each of these platforms. And marketers wonder if they should even be on all these platforms, especially Facebook, as organic reach has deteriorated.

This approach ignores several important marketing questions that B2B marketers should be asking about Facebook.

1. What are you trying to accomplish with social media?

B2B companies need to use these social media platforms to achieve higher level business goals that others in the organization are tracking and supporting. Note that I said business goals, not social media goals. Getting more followers is not a business goal. Increasing sales is a business goal. Increasing the number of leads from online sources, especially social media, is a way to track success against that goal. Make sure you have properly framed social media in a business context to evaluate Facebook as an appropriate platform.

2. Are your customers on Facebook?

This is a critical question in evaluating the platform, but you have to do so in a business context. Even though 71% of online adults are on Facebook, many B2B buyers may not use Facebook during the day or like Business Pages. While there are B2B companies that have large followings on Facebook and have generated traffic and leads, if you are struggling to build an audience there, you may be chasing shadows. And even if you do get people to like your Page, if they don’t engage with your content, Facebook is less likely to display it in their newsfeed.

3. Are you able to provide value to customers and prospects through your content?

If you are creating content to educate, inform and entertain customers and prospects, that is the first step. If you see that your content is being downloaded and shared on any platform, then you know that the content is appropriate for your audience. At any point during this evaluation process, you can ask select customers or prospects about the value of your content. It is easy to make a list of the topics you think would connect with your audience and would drive action, but without direct feedback, it’s possible to miss the mark. And don’t survey them, ask them.

4. How do you reach them without advertising?

Facebook only shows the most interesting posts in the newsfeed, as determined by its algorithm. Interesting is defined as posts that people will interact with (like, comment, share, click). You need to use as many off-Facebook techniques to get people to interact with your content so Facebook will show them more of it. If you get good engagement on Twitter, then post exclusive content on Facebook and use Twitter to drive traffic to it. People need to know what’s there and to like it so they will see future posts. And don’t forget email signatures, newsletters and phone conversations. “We just posted this really fun picture of the sales team on our Facebook Page. You should like it.”

5. Can a B2B company quit Facebook?

And now the biggest question of all. What if your customers really are not on Facebook in a business context, those that are don’t engage with your content, Facebook doesn’t show your updates to many people who like your Page, and you just can’t justify advertising to increase reach, can you really delete your Page and leave Facebook altogether? Do your customers expect you to be on Facebook? Is there a stigma attached to not being on Facebook? If Twitter or LinkedIn are working for you, driving traffic and leads, and otherwise serving your business and its goals, and Facebook is not, it is time to leave. If you have tried everything and it’s only getting worse, you can go. There is more of an expectation for B2B companies to be on Twitter than Facebook. And when you leave Facebook, write a blog post about all your efforts and share the numbers of your lack of success. Nobody will fault you for dedicating your resources to platforms that have business value. One final thing to consider before leaving: It makes some sense to keep the Page alive, but not active, to keep the custom Facebook URL. If you do this, post a note on the Page where people can find you and your current content.

If you have Facebook success stories about your B2B company, please share it in the comments below, especially if you have turned around a low-performing page.

Work in B2B? LinkedIn Can Supercharge Your Personal Brand

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoEmployees at B2B companies know that LinkedIn is the B2B network. It can meet a host of individual and business objectives such as increasing awareness, enhancing SEO, driving website traffic, dripping on prospects and lead generation.

In 2004, when I was running digital marketing for a financial services company, one of my project managers told me he had joined LinkedIn. I asked him what it was. His answer? It’s kind of a digital rolodex that connects people. I didn’t really get it at the time but since I was the guy in charge, and supposed to be leading the digital efforts, how could I not join?

Well, a decade later, I am a believer. LinkedIn is more like a rolodex on steroids and then some.

I’ve used it for all of the things mentioned above, but today I’ll focus on a couple of my favorite tips which helped me become one of LinkedIn’s top 1% most viewed profiles and will help you to supercharge your personal brand.

Start Them Up With Your Summary

Your summary is the first piece of content your profile visitors will see. It’s where you can clearly differentiate yourself from others in your field. What you do in your profession are table stakes. For example, a financial advisor will typically help clients save for retirement, or create financial plans to increase wealth. If every advisor in town does the same thing, how does one rise above the rest? That’s where the summary comes in.

Think of your summary as the place to tell your story. Not in a static resume kind of way, as that’s what the rest of your profile is for, but in a more dynamic and engaging manner. Start by considering simple questions beyond who you are and what you do. What do you stand for? What have you done that’s cool, fun or different? How can you showcase your personality? And why would someone care? Consider what you write as the value proposition of your personal brand. Your value prop separates you from everyone else, so use that to pique your profile visitor’s interest and generate immediate interest in you.

Before you finalize it, consider your keywords. That’s right. Not unlike your website, consider the keywords you want people to find you with – not only via LinkedIn searches, but web searches. Search engines pay attention to LinkedIn profiles and using them as indicators of relevance so choose those keywords carefully and you’ll enhance both your search engine optimization (SEO) and your awareness generation efforts.

Stay Top of Mind with Status Updates

Businesspeople are starting to use the status update feature but there is plenty of room for more. In fact, LinkedIn is allowing people like you and me the opportunity to blog on LinkedIn as another form of status updates.

Status updates appear on the home page of your connections and group members. They can be shared, liked and commented on which will expand your reach even further. Your updates will get noticed if you post enough relevant and engaging content.

To be successful, begin with a content strategy. Decide what you want to post based on your value proposition and what you want to be known for. You can post original content, share other content, curate content – there are a lot of ways to do it, just choose what’s best for you.

I’m a content curator. I research content every day to source content that my network and prospects will find interesting. I schedule my posts a day in advance using HootSuite, and post every two hours starting at 7:00 am. I chose this schedule based on research I did about when my prospects are online and engaging with content. Though I may not get as many views and shares as Jeff Weiner or Richard Branson, I know my content is seen, as I’ll have people stop me in the supermarket asking to chat about something I shared.

Increase awareness, stay relevant, and support your brand with status updates.

What else have you done to supercharge your personal brand on LinkedIn?

Increase B2B Traffic and Reach with a LinkedIn Blog

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoLinkedIn has long been the place where B2B marketers could build a professional network, create an online resume and share compelling content with that network. As part of LinkedIn’s content marketing push, they launched the Influencer program to bring top quality content from thought leaders across multiple industries into the platform. And they picked who could participate. And they worked with editors.

Now that this program is well established, LinkedIn is opening their platform up to all members. This doesn’t mean you and I can become part of the Influencer program. It doesn’t mean that you will instantly become a thought leader. It does mean that you can now blog on the LinkedIn platform and have it associated with your profile. Following will now become part of the regular vocabulary on LinkedIn. Someone can follow your posts without asking your permission to connect.

Create a Plan to Drive Traffic

Now matter how starry-eyed you become about the potential, and I mean potential and not real, reach of these blog posts, you should create a plan that still drives readers back to a site you own, like a company blog or web site. LinkedIn is still a platform that you cannot control. As they roll out this platform, things will change.

Write Unique Content

Your plan needs to focus on great content. If you really want to make an impact on LinkedIn look at the popular Influencer articles and see what resonates with professionals. There are no cat videos or list-based articles. It’s a look of good, solid advice that appeals to a general audience, but with a focus on careers, business growth, technology and entrepreneurship. Don’t syndicate your content between your blog and LinkedIn. Create unique posts for LinkedIn and offer more on your own blog. If your LinkedIn posts are general, your content on your blog can be a bit more specific and focused on your prospects.

Include Calls-to-Action

Have you seen what many of the influencers do on their posts? Subscribe to my blog. Follow me on Twitter. Sign up for my newsletter. While this overload of actions can cause readers to do nothing, the idea is still sound. Blog posts need calls-to-action. A connection to stay informed about future posts or activities is fine. Connecting them to another post you have published is great. Driving them to a landing page to download additional content works too. View these posts as above the top of your funnel and think how can you convert them with content and identify those who are prospects.

Use the Platform to Grow Your Reach

Posts will show up on your personal profile, so make sure you share them on the company page and within any active groups. Ask your colleagues, partners and customers to share these posts on their LinkedIn profiles (and other social channels) to get more reach on LinkedIn. There may be a most popular posts, like the Influencers have, so it will be beneficial to get lots of views on your posts. And don’t forget that you can tag people in updates that include a link to the post to make them aware of it, but don’t go overboard. You can also follow others and they may see you followed them. Until this is fully rolled out, we don’t know the complete functionality.

Share Your Unique Posts on Other Platforms

Each LinkedIn post has its own URL, which means you can share these posts on Twitter, Facebook and any other platforms where your prospects spend their time. You can even include them in an email newsletter to drive more traffic to them.

What are you thinking about the new blogging platform embedded in LinkedIn? Are you working on that plan yet?

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing

b2b-marketing-meaningOur friend Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners has written a lot about the what and the how of B2B marketing, but never the why. In this amazing Slideshare presentation called The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing, and embedded below, he tackles the question of what makes his career in B2B marketing meaningful.

In addition to the ideas expressed, pay attention to the presentation itself. Presented as a notebook with handwritten notes, sketches and more formal type, this comes across as the simple musings of a creative guy (which Doug certainly is). He really captures the right tone and visual style in this piece. And the voyeuristic quality of reading someone else’s notebook makes it even more fun.

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The honesty of Doug’s writing really creates a connection with his audience of B2B marketers. While he is working out meaning in his own career, he hopes that it helps others in the field. My favorite line is:

When you were a kid, you never said, “I want to be a B2B marketer when I grow up.”

You definitely need to check out the whole notebook, but here are the seven things that give his work as a B2B marketer meaning:

1. I like helping companies grow.

2. I Like helping our clients achieve success in their careers.

3. I love working alongside talented, engaged, positive people who also love what they do.

4. I love learning new things.

5. I love work that demands creativity.

6. I like honest work that asks me to build a great case for my client.

7. I like figuring out how the business of business works.

Are there other things that give meaning to your career as a B2B marketer?

5 Ways B2B Companies Can Take Advantage of Facebook

b2b-facebookFacebook is a platform used by brands to reach millions of consumers, but don’t discount it for B2B companies. The most commonly used social networking site for many B2B companies is LinkedIn, but Facebook is an easy-to-use option as well.

1. Develop a Strategy

The first way to take advantage of Facebook is to create a content strategy. Instead of planning out how your company will market itself on Facebook, you can plan how you will market across all types of traditional and online marketing, then work Facebook into that plan. This creates marketing materials that are more consistent with the brand image that you want, and also gains more exposure throughout various media, which allows you to reach more people.

2. Keep Things Visual

When prospects look at your company’s Facebook page, your cover photo and the images you share will stand out. The more photographs and other graphics that are on a page, the more scannable it becomes. You can accompany the images with creative captions since prospects are more likely to read a caption on an image versus reading plain text. If your business participates in community events or charity initiatives, consider sharing photos of those on your B2B company Facebook page.

3. Generate Buzz

With Facebook you can build an audience of fans that follow your business and you can try to activate them to take additional action. Some companies spotlight their fans to help them feel more appreciated. Hosting giveaways and offering free or discounted items also helps promote your page and gain more followers. Getting fans to engage with your posts, especially sharing, can get your content in front of their friends.

4. Connect with Your Partners

If any of your partners have Facebook pages, make sure to like their page and ask them to like yours. You might share relevant content or link to their blog posts or other content. This can help build the connection between your business and theirs, and fans of their Facebook page can view your company’s page because of the shared content.

5. Mobile Access

If someone posts a question to your Facebook page on a Friday evening and your staff won’t be back in the office until Monday morning, you may lose a potential customer in the interim. Staying connected during hours that you are closed is crucial in maintaining the constant connection that people have come to expect. Purchase a tablet and assign a staff member to check in regularly. This also improves your company’s customer service, which is a key part of a successful business strategy. With so many avenues for disgruntled customers to voice their opinions, it is best to try to support a good relationship with all of your online fans.

Using Facebook for your B2B relationships is very beneficial to growing and activating your network of customers and prospects. How has your B2B company utilized Facebook?